The Atlanta Falcons have announced almost all of their practice squad signings, with some expected faces and some genuine surprises, including a long snapper (!) being added to the 11 slot squad.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there’s no Sean Harlow here, so unless they’re in talks with the veteran guard, the team’s fourth round draft choice last year is not coming back to Atlanta. Ditto Jonathan Celestin, everyone’s preseason darling at linebacker, who lost a roster spot to Richard Jarvis and now isn’t even part of the practice squad. Both decisions quality as surprising, to say the least.
Here are the ten men on the squad at the moment.
QB Kurt Benkert
He had long stretches of shaky play, but Benkert showed a good arm, good mobility, and some promising decision-making in between. He’ll serve as the team’s de facto third quarterback, and will hopefully develop enough to take a swing at the backup job in 2019.
WR Devin Gray
One of an assembly of promising young receivers, Gray had a handful of very nice grabs this preseason and showed a solid rapport with Matt Schaub and Benkert. The Falcons have six wide receivers and Gray’s unlikely to crack the depth chart this year, but his hands and route running make him worth a stash.
TE Jaeden Graham
When I predicted Graham, it was because he showed good hands and athleticism throughout training camp and preseason, and the Falcons only have three tight ends on the roster. Sure enough, Graham will be here to develop, and if he can show some growth as a blocker he might be in line to join the roster next year when Logan Paulsen’s contract is up. His ability in the passing game is intriguing.
TE Alex Gray
Gray is a member of the international player program, meaning he’s the team’s 11th practice squad member for the 2018 season and can’t actually play in a game. This is his second straight year, and it’s fair to suspect he’ll be given the chance to compete for a roster spot next year, perhaps against Graham.
T/G Daniel Brunskill
With Matt Gono on the roster, Brunskill will hang around as the team’s fifth tackle and a potential extreme emergency option at guard. He’s an athletic player with good feet, albeit a bit of a slight one, and is entering his second year on the team’s practice squad. Like most of the players on this list, he’ll potentially get a shot in 2019, when Ty Sambrailo’s contract is up. If the team is looking at him more as a guard, there’s ample opportunity for him next season with Ben Garland and Andy Levitre potentially exiting, but it’s sort of stunning the Falcons would value him in that role over Sean Harlow.
C J.C. Hassenauer
The Falcons took a long look at Hassenauer this summer and found something they liked, and it was probably Hassenauer’s ability to move and do quality work in pass protection. The Falcons have gone without a young developmental center for a while now, and hopefully Hassenauer proves to be good enough to become the team’s long-term backup at the position. Youth is good!
DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner
He flashed some pass rushing skills and versatility in preseason, and with Justin Zimmer making the roster and Garrison Smith headed to Arizona, was a logical choice to join the practice squad. He has the versatility to play defensive end in a pinch, making him a sort of emergency tenth defensive lineman with some developmental upside.
DB Ryan Neal
The former Eagle showed physicality and aggressive coverage skills the Falcons liked after joining the team, and that will earn him a longer look. The Falcons are absolutely stacked at defensive back at the moment, but an injury at safety could lead to Neal joining the active roster at some point this year. He has size, speed, positional versatility and skill, and could be an interesting player for the Falcons down the line.
CB Deante Burton
As expected, the Falcons will continue to stash the former wide receiver, a 6’2” cornerback with quality speed and hands. Burton is filling the C.J. Goodwin memorial role and, like Neal, would need an injury to even sniff the roster this year. He could be in play for a special teams role and deep reserve gig in 2019, however.
LS Jeff Overbaugh
A...long snapper. Josh Harris is as solid as they come and is still just 29 years old, so unless he’s hurt or Overbaugh is a once-in-a-generation long snapping prospect, I’m not sure I understand this one. Maybe Dan Quinn will give us some more insight soon.
Your thoughts about this practice squad? We should have one more signing to break down soon.